The Power Of Nightmares, BBC2

by | Oct 20, 2004 | All, Reviews

What to say if you liked it

Probably the best documentary series of the past decade

What to say if you disliked it

Who wants stuff like this after a hard day? Certainly not when Titchmarsh is on the other side.

What was good about it?

• Adam Curtis examined the shocking similarities between American neo-conservatism and Islamic fundamentalism in a manner that was stylish, easy to follow and even playful in parts yet was never gimmicky or dumbed down.

• Curtis sifted like a forensic scientist through the evidence which proved his stance: “Instead of delivering dreams, politicians now promise to protect us from nightmares – dreadful dangers we can’t see and do not understand – but much of this is just fantasy.”

• Archive material was used with panache. Thrown expertly into the visual mix were clips of church dances, cheerleaders, bowling alleys, Perry Mason, Gunsmoke, some horrendous torturing, some fantastically cheesy Egyptian TV ads and, best of all, a clip from a propaganda film showing blood being poured over a globe.

• The soundtrack was good, too, ranging from Western movie songs to sinister swirly music. Curtis was at his most playful when the popular standard Baby It’s Cold Outside played beneath footage of clean-cut Americans as well as exuberant Taliban fighters in the desert

• It was quite staggering to learn that two influential philosophers from seemingly diametrically opposed standpoints – Egyptian Sayyid Qutb and American Leo Strauss – actually shared many ideas in their desperation to control “selfish individualism”. The result? A paranoid America and an extremist Islamic movement.

• Curtis exposed how stupid the neo-conservatives were: they tried to convince the CIA to produce a report to the president that the Soviets were behind all sorts of worldwide terrorist groups, but were oblivious to the fact that much of their evidence was appropriated from wilfully false CIA propaganda bulletins. And then, even more bizarrely, the sympathetic CIA head William Casey acceded to the demand.

What was bad about it?

• Realising that our fate is in the hands of people such as Donald Rumsfeld, who has been a warmongering fool since 1975 and was behind a CIA report claiming the fact that Soviet weapons couldn’t be found meant for sure they must exist.

• The sort of people who should have been watching this were probably preoccupied by The Great British Spelling Test on ITV1 where Neil Fox was being so, so crass making out that this men versus women spelling bee was “the mother of all wars.”

Luke Knowles

Luke Knowles


Editor of the website and host of the podcast. A general TV obsessive. I've been running the site since 2008 and you can usually find me in front of the TV. My Favourite show of all time is Breaking Bad with Cracker coming a close second. I feel so passionately that television can change the world and I'm doing my little bit by running this site. You're Welcome!


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